OTSUKI PRIZE winner – shared prize
Ms MARÍA JESÚS CAÑAMARES MUÑOZ (49)
Title: The role of Braille in (..) life
The role of Braille in improving the participation of visually impaired persons in political, cultural, economic, social and family life.
Hello there, my name is Braille, what’s yours? Let me explain: My father’s name was Louis, he was French and when he went blind, he had no choice but to create me. He gave me life; I changed his forever. Sadly, he died many years ago, but I am immortal. No, don’t laugh: I will never die because I am not a real person - I am a system, a code, and you need me for so many reasons. What’s that? You don’t believe me? Well, I assure you I can change your life completely: improve your social, political or cultural situation … If you let me, I’ll be your best friend.
Who says blind and deaf people are helpless just because they can’t see or hear? They have hands, haven’t they? They can feel, can’t they? Well, there you are! They’ve got the whole world in their hands, at their fingertips! Come along with me and see for yourself. Touch me, I am down there on that piece of paper.
Yes, I know it is prickly and unpleasant to the touch but with patience, hope and just six little dots, we can form an entire alphabet for you to learn. Then, rest assured, no-one will seem superior to you, even though they can see and hear. Come on, let’s get started! You heard about that ONCE school where you could find out all about me, and here you are, sitting at that table with the things you need within easy reach.
Take your embosser, a piece of thick paper and a stylus; listen to your instructor and punch the dots in the little squares on the rule: to the right: 1, 2, 3; to the left: 4, 5 and 6. That’s it! Or, better still, get a Perkins Brailler and type in the other direction so you won’t have to turn the paper round to read it. When you use a Perkins Brailler, the text goes the other way round. Don’t get mad! Relax, you’ll soon get the hang of it, it can even be fun! I know it’s hard to get used to using your sense of touch (it’s not very developed in most people) and it is hard for you to distinguish the shapes of the letters and feel the difference between the lines that are not separated. Patient is a virtue; you have a wonderful teacher!
See how your classmates read and write?
Great, now you can read and write, too; you are like a pre-schooler with your first reading book! … But you are slowly getting better, more fluent and faster.
Well, what next? We have a long road ahead and you’ll have to study if you want to make the grade. I am everywhere, in books, letters, on labels. You can study a degree course or whatever you want. I know others with the same problem as you. So now you won’t make a mistake when you buy medicine or take some from the medicine chest. They won’t give you the wrong thing at the grocery store. You’ll always know the exact time without having to keep on asking others, for I’ll be there on the watch face, never failing. Push the button on the lift and go straight up to the right floor … Why, you could even get to be someone big in Public Administration.
When you come of age, you will be able to exercise your right to a secret vote come election time, because I’ll be there on the ballot slips when you vote, and no-one will need to know your political leanings...
Go on, there is a whole world out there, full of surprises that I can help you discover!
Goodness me, how time flies! We have known each other for more than 20 years now. You are that young graduate who studied so hard to finish his career. A mature man with a brilliant future. I am still your System, your reading, writing and communication code, your faithful, lifelong friend!
No, don’t thank me; I helped you get out into the world, helped you learn. But I should also thank you for many things: you took me with you everywhere; you told everyone who let you all about me; you defended me tooth and nail when someone who didn’t like me tried to push me out our your world … I remember that day, when you where in 2nd year at Integrated Junior High. The teacher explained that the word “system” had many connotations, and depending on the context, this word can have a lot of different meanings.
She asked you to write a composition on the different meanings of the word “system”, to see how many you knew I remember, too, that when you had finished, the teacher got you all to read them out loud. When your turn came, you made it quite clear that, for you, the best system was me: the Braille system. Your classmates faces were a picture, how they whispered and murmured! They couldn’t comprehend, not needing to use it, how important Braille was for you.
The teacher calmly and tactfully explained to them why I thought you were so incredibly important; she gave such a well reasoned argument, digging into the depths her profound wisdom, that just by listening to her, all the dots jumped about on the paper and danced for joy, but from that day onwards, every single one of the other students in my class wanted to find out more about you and share my experiences. It was this same teacher who awarded me top marks for that, and I proudly punched nine out of ten, for you to read, at the foot of the composition.
I am really proud of you when I use Braille on my computer. Or when I play with you on my cell phone. Doing endless calculations with perfect precision on a calculator. All these new technology gadgets use Braille as the basic pillar on which so many, many tasks rest.
And that is why I too have to say thank you, for having me in your life constantly, a life which, as I told you when you were just a child, has been totally transformed.
May you be happy ever after!